FRANKFORT, Ky. — More options for voting, broadband internet across the state, and clean water where it is badly needed.
Those are among the bills Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law during a ceremony at the Capitol on Wednesday which included a display of bipartisan cooperation.
The Democratic governor called it “a good day for democracy” as Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams and several GOP legislators joined him at the signing ceremony.
“I think this is the way that we want government to work,” said Beshear before signing the first of the bills, House Bill 574, the sweeping election reform measure.
As the bill's Republican sponsors looked on, Beshear noted that the agreement comes as other states fight over voter access.
“Kentucky leaders were able to come together, to stand up for democracy, and to expand the opportunity for people to vote,” he said.
The new law allows for three days of no-excuse early voting, permits counties to create super-centers for mass voting, and begins a statewide transition to paper ballots, which guarantee a paper trail.
It also maintains an online portal for residents to request a mail-in ballot, but restores pre-pandemic restrictions on who can vote by mail.
The legislation also enhances the ability of state election officials to remove nonresidents from voter rolls, and prohibits and penalizes ballot harvesting, the practice of collecting ballots from likely supporters and returning them to election offices.
“I'm very grateful to Gov. Beshear for signing this bill, which makes our elections both more accessible and more secure at the same time,” said Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams.
Beshear also signed bills that direct spending of more than one billion dollars in federal American Rescue Act funds.
The dollars will go towards creating internet broadband access across the state, school construction projects, funding for rural hospitals, and clean water projects.
There is also $140 million in state funding for one year of all-day kindergarten.
“These dollars are going to create lasting, positive change - generational change,” Beshear said.
Beshear and lawmakers came to a deal on how to spend the money during negotiations over the final two days of the session.
“It's a great opportunity that we put all these things together - House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, that actually creates an economic dynamic for future expansion,” said Republican Senate Pres. Robert Stivers.
“There were a few squabbles within the House and Senate this session, but you know what, when we're talking about doing what's right for Kentucky, we can all come together,” said Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Louisville Democrat who is also the House Minority Floor Leader.
The good feelings may not last long. Beshear is still reviewing several bills, and hinted there could be vetoes coming.
“We still have a number of bills that we are looking at that we're trying to make determinations on both their legality and the politics,” Beshear told reporters.
Since the legislature is no longer in session, lawmakers cannot override any vetoes the governor may make.
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